Ideas Backyard Landscaping
Individual Consultant at Ministry of Public Works and Housing
The goal of landscaping a hillside successfully is not only to make the attractive, but to make the slope stable. Over time rain and There are a number of ideas you can use to landscape hillsides successfully.
Out With Grass, In With Groundcovers
If your slope has more than a barely noticeable incline, consider ditching grass altogether and substituting no-mow groundcovers instead. First, determine which direction your slope faces. A south-facing slope is sunny and will probably be drier and hotter than one facing any other direction. Many of the low-growing Mediterranean herbs, such as one of the many thymes (Thymus spp.) or miniature wormwood (Artemesia viridis “Tiny Green”), will do well under those conditions. For shady or cooler slopes or where the sun shines only part of the day, use low-growing hostas, or ferns such as the southern maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris). For really hard-to-cover areas, one of the select bugleweeds (Ajuga reptans cultivars), or vinca (Vinca major or V. minor) will establish quickly almost anywhere, but beware – both of these plants can become invasive without regular maintenance.
Many plants growing in rocky areas grow rather low due to lack of rich soil nutrients, so putting them on a slope gives the illusion of varying heights to similar-sized plants – much like seating in an auditorium. Arrange attractive boulders in a natural manner across the slope and place dwarf conifers, such as the sub-alpine balsam fir Abies lasiocarpa, or evergreen shrubs such as kinnickinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), and deciduous shrubs such as Darwin’s barberry (Berberis darwinii) at the top to use as backdrop for pockets of delicate alpines such as rock jasmines (Androsace spp.) or thrift (Armeria maritima). Gravel or stepping stone paths switchbacking across the slope will look appropriate and give access to the rock garden for maintenance.
No matter what plants you choose, you may need terracing to make a very steep slope accessible and plantable. Since you already have rocks, try using those to build low walls, and then level the slopes between for planting. Use larger and relative flat stones to build stairs between terraces. For added drama, consider creating an artificial, recirculating “mountain stream” to cascade from one small pool to another on each terrace and make your stairs zig-zag toward and away from the stream at key points to emphasize views and specimen plantings. A wide terrace at the bottom or top adds versatility to the space for entertaining.
If your slope is hopelessly wet or deliberately built-in to drain water away from the house, take advantage of that to create a rain garden. Whether you build a permanent or high-water-only pond at the bottom, many marginal plants such as irises and sedges will thrive. Native cattails (Typha latifolia) offer beauty as well as utility in permanently wet areas, and in year-round pools you might even plant any of a variety of waterlilies. The miniature golden sweet flag (Acorus gramineus “Minimus aureus”) will make an attractive groundcover for the rest of the slope.
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